Bear Basin Butte Excursion

Click to view a gallery of images from this visit.

Participating in Siskiyou Field Institute events continues to thrill us. Our most recent session was at the Bear Basin Butte (fire) lookout for 3 days of hiking, botanizing, and relishing the magnificent panorama only a converted fire lookout can provide.

We rendezvoused with our leader, Wendell, at the Patrick Creek Campground not far into California on Hwy. 199 and about 30 minutes south of Cave Junction, OR. Once the 8 of us were assembled, he led the small motorcade 14 miles up Jones Creek Rd. (milepost 27) to the Doe Flat / Buck Lake turnoff. From there it was only minutes to the lookout and a great pasta dinner prepared by Greg, our chef. After extensive begging he agreed to save some delicious cookies for the next day’s activity: hiking (and swimming) at Buck Lake.

We departed after breakfast (yep, Greg provided us with blueberry scones we didn’t expect) and after 5 minutes we stopped and explored Bear Basin. The bear must have heard us coming, so we resigned to having Wendell identify practically every plant in the meadow. His familiarity with indigenous plant varieties is incredible and everyone appreciated his apologies of getting too detailed in his anecdotes. As it turned out, everyone got what they wanted out of the day’s activities, and we proceeded to the Buck Lake trailhead for more fun.

Years past, it was possible to drive quite close to Buck Lake, making it a popular day trip for locals. With the arrival of the blight affecting the Port Orford Cedar, forest scientists placed the trailhead considerably farther from the lake, and we walked part way on the former roadway and finished our hike on a beautiful trail with plenty of botany to discuss. The swim after lunch was a perfect desert, and the rest of the day was luxuriously spent doing anything we wanted to do. Buck Lake is only 4 miles from the lookout, so after a lazy day at the lake, we returned to the lookout for some debriefing and a barbeque. We agreed that (nearly) everyone wanted to hike to the Devil’s Punchbowl the following day, so we worked out the logistics and everyone retired to do their thing. Our camper was a short distance down the hill, and Sooney and I enjoyed a seemingly endless sunset over the cloud-shrouded Pacific 30 miles away.

Our assault on the Punchbowl began early, as no one had any experience with the hike. The first third was a repeat of the previous day’s hike to Buck Lake, but we covered the 1.2 miles considerably quicker since it was agreed we’d not stop and discuss every danged plant that was under-foot.

From the Buck Lake turnoff, we continued on, with a plan of jumping into Buck Lake on the descent. it’s another 1.8 miles to the next junction, and from there it’s a grueling 1.2 mile up, up, up to the Devil’s Punchbowl. A wonderful experience and an equally wonderful sight: a glacier-produced cirque with Yosemite-like granite cliffs reaching skyward around most of the pristine lake. As planned, the refreshing swim at Buck lake was blissful and, group by group, we went on our own ways with another Siskiyou Field Institute experience in our memory banks. They continue to provide familiarity in new-to-us areas, for which we’re supremely grateful.